Drone Filming in London – Part One
Drone filming in London is not without its challenges yet it is where the most iconic buildings and skylines can be found and attracts many big name production companies. The airspace over the city is complex, busy and there are many restricted areas with their own specific rules. London is rarely quiet; the streets are always a hive of activity. Ensuring the public can go about their daily activities safely and with minimum disruption should always be a top priority for any drone operator undertaking aerial filming in the capital. Furthermore, there are many organisations that must be involved and negotiated with to give their approval
UAViate & Cloud 12 were recently involved in a very high profile shoot on a weekday near Spitalfields in London. It took nearly six weeks of planning from undertaking an initial recce with the director Ariel Vromen and director of photography Dana Gonzales. This is where they described what sort of shots they were trying to get and gave us their requirements. After that initial brief, with the help of the locations manager and the supervising locations manager, we proceeded to engage with the necessary parties.
Amongst the organisations that needed to give approval for the aerial filming were the CAA, NATS, Film London, Diplomatic Protection Group, the local authorities and the local police. The area we wished to fly in was within an area of airspace over the city catchily known as R158. No aircraft may fly in this area below 1400ft without permission from DPG, applications for which are handled via NATS. I don’t know the ins and outs of the screening process but I’m led to believe they check the pilot isn’t a bit dodgy, your company isn’t secretly funding the latest in vogue extremists and you’re not planning to fly near a secret CIA outpost. NATS also require that aircraft operating over 7kg get approval to fly before entering controlled airspace.
These are all relatively straight forward processes so far; the biggest hurdle is convincing the CAA to issue an exemption to the standard permissions. Pilots undertaking aerial video with aircraft over 7kg have a set of standard permissions they must adhere to as part of their Permission for Aerial Work (PFAW). The main rules being they must remain 150m away from a ‘congested area’ and 50m away from people, buildings or vessels. Neither of these are really possible within most areas of London.
In order to be granted an exemption, you need to demonstrate to the CAA that appropriate measures will be put in place to protect the public and that there will be no increased risk. A 40 page safety case later, 3 road closures, numerous SIA-approved pedestrian marshals, dynamic traffic management, all residents and businesses letter dropped along with on-site RF analysis, a Cloud 12 pilot with more skills than Maverick and a Skyjib 8 aircraft, affectionally known as ‘Olivia’, with a better service history than Lewis Hamilton’s F1 car and we pretty much had everything in place. Drone filming in London is go…..
Check back for part 2 for what happened on the day. In the meantime, read more about what the Film Office had to say here http://bit.ly/1sWoQ5Q